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by Chris Teale November 20, 2017 at 11:45 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A startup that looks to help companies protect customers’ personal data just received $3.1 million in new funding at a crucial time for the data protection industry.

Clarendon-based WireWheel was founded in December 2016 by Justin Antonipillai, the former Acting Undersecretary of Economic Affairs at the U.S. Department of Commerce under President Barack Obama, alongside University of Maryland Computer Science professor Amol Deshpande and former NASA rocket scientist Chris Getner.

The trio founded the company to help businesses comply with new regulations around data protection that come into effect next year.

Its software, called the “Data Privacy and Protection platform,” helps businesses both in the United States and Europe keep track of customer data that has been collected, where it is stored and who or what has access to it.

“It’s not only the specific information you’ve given the company, because most companies are logging every interaction you have with them, often tied to where you were when that interaction took place, there’s crazy insights that people can get from that kind of data about you,” Antonipillai said. “What I’m really seeing is companies trying to do the right thing, and makes sure they can prove they’re doing the right thing, and that’s where we come in.”

WireWheel received its seed funding, early-stage investments in return for a stake in the business, from venture capital firms PSP Chicago and New Enterprise Associates. Antonipillai said that money will be used primarily to hire new software developers and engineers and to invest in improving the software which will be rolled out for a wider Beta test in January.

And from the investment firms’ point of view, the timing is perfect to invest in companies that help protect customers’ data, especially after high-profile breaches like that at the Equifax credit bureau.

“Now, more than ever, it is imperative that companies and governments build trust and show that they are taking care of their customer’s personal data,” Penny Pritzker, founder and Chairman of PSP Capital, said in a statement. “The WireWheel team brings tremendous expertise in understanding the regulatory maze, advanced technologies and business needs surrounding data privacy.”

In May, the General Data Protection Regulation comes into effect for companies that do business in Europe, which includes multi-national corporations based in the United States. Described as “one of the biggest changes to data privacy and data protection regulation in 20 years,” it imposes significant privacy requirements on companies.

Antonipillai said the GDPR and the European Union’s renewed focus on data privacy means WireWheel fills a vital need for companies on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean.

“In Europe, privacy is a fundamental right and it imbues a lot of parts of society,” he said. “If companies aren’t in a position to demonstrate that they’re doing the right thing with that information, and that they know where it is, what it is and who or what has access to it, you can’t do business on the world stage.”

Already, Antonipillai said WireWheel has worked with several multi-national companies in the software’s early stages, and has been developing its platform with their help.

He echoed comments from the likes of Ballston-based cybersecurity firm BluVector, which said previously it is part of an unofficial “cyber corridor” in Arlington, and said that as the software evolves, it will be easy to scale for more companies to use.

“We know that if we solve their problems, we’ll solve them in a way that is going to solve a lot of companies’ problems,” Antonipillai said. “Given the scope of the problem, there are European laws and there are US laws that have to be complied with. Companies are trying really hard to get up to speed on that, so I think we have a pretty good path to scale once we really get the platform out.”

by Chris Teale November 13, 2017 at 11:45 am 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Two-and-a-half years after its founding, the owner of a company that works with expecting and new mothers on health and wellbeing is looking to expand.

Ballston-Virginia Square resident Chris Bhutta founded WellMom in 2014. It offers personal training and yoga sessions in clients’ homes, as well as training for small groups in a gym. Buhtta said it is key to build women’s core and back muscles, as those are the ones that can be the most damaged by giving birth.

“Core strength is really important, particularly for women,” she said. “Their core is completely destroyed during pregnancy through labor and delivery. Your stomach is expanding, so your abdominal muscles are really weakened, your pelvic floor is really weakened from the weight of the uterus and also if you have a vaginal delivery there’s more trauma to your pelvic floor.” 

In addition to the fitness classes, Bhutta offers nutrition guidance and coaching to help women eat properly during pregnancy. As well as in-person coaching, Bhutta began offering distance coaching in nutrition, giving out easy-to-prepare recipes and shopping lists of ingredients to keep things simple.

“A lot of these women, they know exactly what they need to be doing, but it’s just hard with all the competing demands on their time to implement and to follow through,” she said. “For them, they wanted someone to make this as easy for them as possible.”

That distance coaching in nutrition is part of Bhutta’s plan to expand her services gradually, including having more of an online presence and maybe even moving towards having a brick-and-mortar store in the long-term.

“I want it to be not huge right now,” she said. “I have two small children, aged 5 and 2, so I still want to be a little bit less than full-time right now. I’m about 20 hours a week right now, maybe going up a little closer to 30 hours a week and growing the nutrition piece in particular and maybe a couple more classes and a couple more clients.”

Bhutta said WellMom has already come a long way from its early days, when she offered free yoga classes in parks and training classes for the various mothers’ groups in North Arlington, then added customers through word of mouth and referrals from existing clients.

She said that after taking care of herself well during both pregnancies, and having qualified as a personal trainer after deciding against going into academia and teaching, she wanted to share the wisdom she picked up.

“I had a really positive pregnancy experience, labor and delivery and a good recovery,” Bhutta said. “I believe my lifestyle played a role in that, it’s obviously not the only thing, but it’s an important piece. So that experience made me want to share that with other women.”

Photos via Facebook

by Chris Teale November 6, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A one-woman clothing company based in Cherrydale is combining social media with traditional store sales for her collection of locally-themed shirts.

Lisa McLaughlin founded District Line Co. Clothing in 2014. Based out of her home office, she makes locally-themed shirts, highlighting the neighborhoods and landmarks.

It started with an Arlington-themed but has since expanded to include the likes of Falls Church, Alexandria and D.C., which is an artist’s sketch of the skyline and monuments.

“It really captures the things that you love about living in one of those cities,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin started District Line Co. Clothing after working for the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency and studying Security Policy as a postgraduate at George Washington University.

But she said she had issues getting a job after graduating due to uncertainty surrounding federal budgets preventing new hires being brought on, as well as spending a long time on a waiting list to be given a start date. In the meantime, she had the idea to do something else.

“I had this creative itch to do something pretty different from having a keycard to get into my building and not really talking much about the work to being really public and having a really interactive business with the public,” McLaughlin said.

McLaughlin said the company has gained momentum through social media, especially through the hashtag campaign “#ThisIsMyLocal” on Instagram.

The campaign started with a tag on each shirt encouraging people to post selfies and use the hashtag, showing what McLaughlin described as “the larger D.C. area’s local experience.” In time, McLaughlin said, she hopes to see a lot of photos of her shirts being worn in various local businesses with the hashtag.

McLaughlin said the campaign was especially popular this summer, as people posted selfies wearing the company’s running tank top with the words “Home is Where the Humidity Is.”

And this holiday season, District Line Co. Clothing will look to encourage people to buy matching shirts for their family, and post a photo of them all wearing them with the hashtag “#ThisIsMyLocalFamily.”

“That’ll be our holiday campaign hashtag, and we’re hoping it’ll encourage people to buy a couple of shirts that match and take some fun pictures and tell us about their families and their local experience,” McLaughlin said.

That use of social media combined with sales in traditional brick-and-mortar stores has helped District Line Co. Clothing get customer feedback, and their ideas for designs. McLaughlin said she will look to take on new ideas for a new Arlington shirt for next year, and may also do the same for another running-themed one.

“I see people all the time who are like, ‘I have that shirt! Someone else has that and we had a conversation,'” she said. “That’s what I want this company to be, a recognition of something that you’re wearing saying something about you and creating a real in-person connection.”

McLaughlin said the company has doubled its revenue every year since launch, and is on track to do even better this year. But, she said, given the limited space she has available to work in, further expansion is unlikely, especially as there are still plenty of potential customers in Northern Virginia and D.C. she has not reached yet.

“I think we’ll continue to focus on the area that we’re in. I used to think we’d expand and expand and do Loudoun County and we’d have a Richmond shirt and all that,” McLaughlin said. “But I actually think there’s a lot of people we haven’t reached here, and a lot of really interesting creative work we can do.”

Photos via Facebook

by Chris Teale October 30, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A Crystal City-based software startup that received an economic development grant from the Arlington County Board earlier this year has raised $6 million from investors.

Stardog Union, which moved to 1400 Crystal Drive last September, took on funding from venture capital firm Grotech Ventures, as well as existing investors Core Capital and Boulder Ventures. All three invest in software and technology companies.

The injection of cash came from the company’s Series A funding round, the first time startups receive investments from venture capital firms and the first time ownership is offered to those external investors.

Since raising its seed round of early investments in July 2016, Stardog has more than tripled its revenue and secured many recognizable companies as customers. That includes the likes of NASA, Oxford University Press and Bosch.

Stardog Union helps businesses bring together internal data from different sources. At the time of its county grant, CEO and co-founder Kendall Clark told ARLnow that while that process could take a large company like Samsung a week and use 30 people to collate all the data on, Stardog’s technology does the job in a matter of seconds.

“Stardog is uniquely solving the largest unsolved problem in enterprise IT: data silos,” said Steve Fredrick, general partner at Grotech Ventures, in a statement. “They’ve generated substantial traction including some truly amazing logos despite having raised very little capital and having done no marketing to date.”

Stardog received a Gazelle Grant earlier this year a Gazelle Grant, an incentive program from Arlington Economic Development to encourage fast-growing companies to locate in the county. It received $35,000 in return for creating 70 new full-time jobs at its Arlington office and leasing 3,500 square feet of office space.

“We had an incredible year of growth and are excited to have Grotech as a new partner to accelerate further,” Clark said in a statement. As part of the investment, Fredrick has joined Stardog’s board of directors.

by Chris Teale October 23, 2017 at 12:30 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

An Arlington County-based company is at the forefront of strengthening wireless networks amid exploding demand, and experiencing rapid growth of its own.

Federated Wireless works to provide more spectrum for mobile networks for businesses and ordinary citizens, which allows devices to connect to the internet and communicate with each other.

Founded five years ago, the company just took on $42 million in new funding, including from telecommunications companies. Federated Wireless is set to move to a new office across from the redeveloping Ballston Quarter mall on Wilson Blvd and hire more engineers and developers. It also has smaller offices in Boston and Silicon Valley.

Federated Wireless is working to make the new airwaves available for more uses while ensuring they do not interfere with each other. That includes for businesses like grocery stores, who want to automate cash registers and need to use a network to do that, as well as for factories, delivery and logistics companies and the like. It is also designed to improve service indoors, and responds to where the needs are greatest.

As more and more look to use high-speed networks, they experience slow-downs, and that will only get worse, the company said, as usage is set to triple by 2021.

The Federal Communications Commission in 2015 allowed some of the airwaves to be for public and private use through its “Citizens’ Broadband Radio Service” initiative, which makes airwaves not being used by the U.S. Navy for flight operations and satellites open for public consumption.

“We find out who you are, what hotspot you’re going to turn on, we track you in terms of your use and need and we track all the airwaves around you and we basically run an inventory system 24 hours a day and make it available,” Federated Wireless CEO Iyad Tarazi said. “Instead of making it rigid, ‘If I’m going to use it, I have to have it in the entire city or I won’t get started.’ It’s very much a sharing model.”

Tarazi said Federated Wireless leads the way on researching how to make the spectrum more widely available in part because of the research institutions and government agencies located in and around Arlington.

For years, such usage was reserved mostly for the military, but with partners like Virginia Tech’s local campus and research being done by the likes of the National Science Foundation and the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, Tarazi said Arlington leads the way.

“For this field, it’s No. 1, primarily because DARPA’s research is here, NSF’s research is here, Virginia Tech’s research is here,” he said. “We believe Arlington can be, this is maybe a little corny, ‘Spectrum Valley.’ Maybe that’s the term we start propagating, because we’re trying to make sure we develop as much spectrum research here, because it is the future.”

The industry is continually evolving, with the likes of Google also involved in trying to take advantage of the new airwaves for its own products. With more than 80 companies as partners in an alliance researching the subject, including cable companies like Comcast and Verizon, chip makers like Intel and equipment makers like Nokia, Tarazi said things continue at a fast pace.

And Tarazi said the new office comes at the perfect time, as more and more people and businesses want to connect to mobile networks every day. The technology was first widely used by the military, but has since expanded to all areas of life.

“Ultimately we need more airwaves, because when you’re mobile you can’t use wires,” he said. “You need to be able to allocate airwaves to the application whenever it needs it. A lot of the technology around that is what we’re doing. When you go into war, you need to be able to manage drones, you need to be able to manage mechanization, you need to communicate, so that’s why you need to be very intense, careful and efficient in how you use your airwaves.”

Photos via Federated Wireless

by Chris Teale October 16, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

The roofs of D.C. taxis could be set for electronic advertising that can update in real time or be targeted to specific areas thanks to a new startup based in Rosslyn.

Above and Beyond Media Group launched October 1 after a year of planning and writing its software. It uses double-sided LED screens on taxi roofs to get advertisers’ messages out. And Arlington County residents might be familiar with them already, as ABMG sent prototypes out and about during the spring and summer to test the technology.

“It’s kind of a breakaway from the traditional paper and plastic that most outdoor utilizes,” said founder and CEO Eric Lekuch. “It’s kind of wasteful, and ours is seamless in that it can edit on the fly, it can be real time, there’s no real waste involved and production costs are pretty minimal.”

Lekuch said the idea to partner with taxis in D.C. came about three years ago, when ride-hailing apps like Uber and Lyft started to take hold across the region. With many cab drivers and companies investing in electric cars, he said they wanted to find new revenue streams to make up for the lost income.

“They’re telling us how much they’re losing every week and every month and in any given year due to increased competition,” Lekuch said. “So we’re helping bite into that.”

A SIM card loaded in each advertising box has internet access, meaning updates can be made in real time. So, Lekuch said, perhaps an advertising partner like one of the local lotteries, theaters or arenas could change information with ease.

He said it could also be helpful with governmental partners, who could advertise the likes of amber alerts or other public safety announcements quickly and easily.

And in addition to the real-time updates, the SIM card keeps constant track of its coordinates as the cab drives around. Lekuch said it can be programmed in such a way that when a taxi enters a certain neighborhood or part of town, the display changes and could advertise something specific to that area. Lekuch described that service as a “premium add-on.”

“There’s definitely an interest if you want to target, maybe by Capital One Arena or Navy Yard, there’s always an interest if someone only has one store or one restaurant and want it to appear if you’re in [that neighborhood],” he said.

To test the technology, ABMG made use of contacts in the startup community before sending the advertising boxes out on the street. Lekuch said he received plenty of positive feedback already from Arlington.

“We have a lot of friends in the startup industry,” he said. “They’d send us some content and once it hits Wilson Blvd. or Courthouse, or the Ballston corridor, an ad will appear. It was cool to test that, and it works and we can do that, but also to meet more readers of ARLnow in an environment where you’re not really expecting it.”

Lekuch said he is hopeful of ABMG getting a foothold in the D.C. area before possibly expanding to other cities.

Photos via Above and Beyond Media Group

by Chris Teale October 9, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

After more than 15 years spent improving help people’s health, local resident Eifer Lyddane noticed a gap in corporate wellness programs.

“What’s interesting is a lot of these companies have wellness programs, but most of these wellness programs are, for lack of a better word, old school,” she said. “They are traditional programs that are biometric screening, hydration challenges, fitness challenges.”

And, Lyddane said, those programs don’t tend to get employees too excited to work on their health and wellbeing.

“The problem with all that is it doesn’t really engage their employees at a high level,” she said. “In fact, most of the companies I’ve talked to get about a 10 percent employee engagement, which I think is extremely low.”

So to freshen things up, Lyddane founded In Good Company Wellness a year and a half ago. The startup goes into businesses like IT companies and law firms, customizes a wellness program for employees and then implements it.

Lyddane said programs can include guidance on nutrition, farm-to-table catering, meditation, talks and workshops on wellness, or yoga and other fitness-based activities. Programs are typically scheduled to happen on a regular basis — usually each month or each week — but In Good Company offers one-off programs too.

The company also just launched a podcast on mindfulness, where “mindfulness guru” Hugh Byrne interviews entrepreneurs who are having an impact on the local community.

One such program is a rooftop yoga class at the Watergate Hotel in D.C. in partnership with meditation studio Recharj. Lyddane said programs like that, which are consistent and offer people a chance to decompress and take some time for themselves are of great help.

“Our real goal is to go into these companies and really add that wellness piece that engages employees and helps them figure out what to do with stress and anxiety, and offer it at lunchtime, before work, after work,” Lyddane said. “It also helps with interactions with their colleagues and clients as well.”

And having worked with around 30 businesses already, including national and global companies that take advantage of online content like webinars, Lyddane said employers have noticed a difference already in their employees.

“After six months, it’s interesting to see the change in the culture of the organization just from that wellness element,” she said. “Their interactions with each other, they’re not as stressed. It’s almost like the culture is more laid back, and is not as harried and hectic.”

Employees, meanwhile, are embracing the programs being offered, especially as it allows them to escape their stressful work lives.

“You think about it, people come to work, they’ve already been in traffic for an hour or an hour and a half and they’re stressed when they get there and they’re thinking about the future and getting things done,” Lyddane said. “It’s just a way of taking time for themselves in the workplace, and it shows that their employer really cares about them and their wellbeing. It’s been very well received.”

Photos via In Good Company Wellness.

by Chris Teale October 2, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Car lovers now can rent a model they might otherwise have only dreamed of owning thanks to a new startup launched by a Cherrydale couple.

Drive Society went live earlier this month, and offers members the chance to rent cars like Ferraris, Porsches, Teslas or a 1969 Chevy Camaro. The club has nine cars available for rent right now, and expects to add more as it grows.

Danielle Schefer, one of the company’s co-founders, said cars have been a passion for a while. Through Drive Society, Schefer said she wanted to help other people get the same enjoyment.

“What we’re trying to do is give people a really broad brush of automotive experiences, because those are all very different cars to drive and to experience,” Schefer said. “It’ll really give people a lot of different driving experiences in a variety of cars.”

Those interested in renting a car must sign up for membership, then can purchase points on top of that to rent a car. For example, the Camaro costs six points for a weekday rental, 30 points for a weekend or 36 points for a full week. The member then is free to take the car away with them and enjoy it for a short period.

“So you would buy a points package as a member, and then use those points to drive whichever of the cars you wanted to, maybe on a weekend trip to the Blue Ridge Mountains or to the beach, or just to have it for a week around town to use it as if it were your own,” Schefer said.

And anyone worried about getting in a wreck needn’t, Schefer said, as the company has liability insurance to go on top of a customer’s individual policy.

“One of the hassles about buying these cars is it increases your insurance and you pay personal property tax and it depreciates no matter what you do,” she said. “So we tried to get rid of all the hassles and headaches of car ownership and really allow people to just experience the great part of driving and experiencing these cars.”

Already, Schefer said a member has borrowed a car for a weekend in the Pocono Mountains in Pennsylvania, and there is plenty more interest in other rentals. She said the club’s stable of cars are intentionally a bit different from the norm, and that members can help shape its growth.

“We try to find cars that are really unique, that are experiences you can’t have every day,” Schefer said. “So we have a BMW 1M, and there’s only 740 of those ever made. We have a Tesla Roadster, and there are only 1,500 of those in the United States.”

“We tried to pick cars that are my husband and mine’s favorite cars, and then what we want to do is as the club progresses, have the members help us figure which cars are the right cars.”

Photos via Drive Society.

by Chris Teale September 25, 2017 at 12:45 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Just eight months after its launch, cybersecurity firm BluVector marked the latest phase of its growth by cutting the ribbon on its new Ballston office last week.

Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), Virginia Secretary of Technology Karen Jackson and Arlington County Board chair Jay Fisette joined BluVector CEO Kris Lovejoy to mark the occasion last Tuesday (September 19) with more than 100 attendees. Lovejoy received a “Key to the County” to recognize BluVector’s work so far.

Now with around 70 employees in Arlington’s unofficial “cyber corridor,” BluVector built an early-warning system to detect network hacks electronically. The software monitors the network, analyzes data for threats and responds to hacks by creating a profile of a threat then responds automatically.

“We live in an age where cyberattacks on our critical infrastructure are a real threat,” McAuliffe said in a statement. “But we are proud to have Virginia-based companies like BluVector leading the way to detect – and confront – evolving threats with technological solutions that can be applied here, nationally, and even around the world.”

Lovejoy said those threats have evolved from the early days of the internet, when hackers would look to steal data and then sell it on the black market to make money in economically deprived parts of the world like Eastern Europe. Now, she said, hackers are motivated by what she described as “social and political reasons.”

“It’s no longer, ‘I’m going to steal your data,'” Lovejoy said. “It’s now, ‘I’m going to destroy your systems. I’m going to cause you harm. I’m going to shut down that hospital. I’m going to shut down that grid.’ That to me is the most significant change: the statistical increase in the type of attack has been leading toward the more destructive, and that to me is really quite frightening.”

But Lovejoy said BluVector’s position in Arlington’s so-called “cyber corridor” should help it continue to recruit talented people. She said the combination of the county being a desirable place to live, its location close to many colleges and universities and the fact that people leave defense and intelligence jobs at the Pentagon and wish to transition into the private sector make it a perfect place to be in cybersecurity.

“We do the best we can, and we think we’ve done a good job creating a cyber corridor here,” Fisette said.

Already, BluVector is looking to expand to Japan and South Korea as well as parts of Europe. Lovejoy said the company will also continue to grow in North America, having had the Virginia Information Technologies Agency as one of its first clients. VITA provides IT services to other state agencies, including cybersecurity.

“It has been a great opportunity for us,” Jackson said. “Government doesn’t have many opportunities to be innovative and creative, but this just works.”

And in the company’s expansive, open-plan office with views of the Ballston skyline and beyond, Lovejoy said BluVector is in the perfect place to keep growing.

“There’s not a lot of hierarchy here. There’s military hierarchy, but it’s hierarchy for a purpose,” she said. “We live those values, and I think this office physically manifests what we’re all about. This is about people making a difference. We have a mission and we’re going to succeed in that mission in an area that’s family-friendly, that’s accessible to education, that’s highly cerebral, is motivated by purpose.”

Photo No. 1 via BluVector.

by Chris Teale September 18, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

It can be daunting to put together a prototype and business plan for a new app, but one Clarendon-based company hopes to help make it easier.

Stuck in the Sand launched two months ago, to help those with a new idea get their thoughts in order ahead of employing developers or looking for investors.

It was founded by Wa’il Ashshowwaf, who has built four startups including rights protection app Reyets.

One of SITS’ four staff members interviews a client to learn more about their proposed product. After that conversation, SITS will draw up a business plan and start working on the prototype of an app and a home page for its website online.

Potential app customers can then view the website, sign up for email updates and run a full demo of the app from start to finish to see how the service works.

SITS provides its clients with a full business plan, a wireframe for the app to show developers how it is intended to work and a folder all the materials, including mock-ups for marketing.

Ashshowwaf said that all he and his colleagues need to start putting together prototypes is a name and an idea for an app. They can take care of the rest.

“When you have a very fresh idea, you don’t know where to start, it gives us a lot of room to take your idea and take creative license and build you something that looks good and gets your main idea across without wasting time on colors or what things should look like,” he said. “It allows you to get it out very quickly, it gives people a jump-start. It’s like if anyone’s started a diet and they need that first jump-start to get motivated, it gives them that.”

The client can then go to potential investors with their prototype, with such design intended to be less crude than an idea scribbled on a napkin in five minutes. SITS also provides analytics with website home pages, so clients can show investors a level of initial interest before major development begins.

When working with a developer, such services can cost around $20,000 and take several months, but SITS provides its services for around 10 percent of the cost — just over $2,000 — and will have a prototype ready in a matter of three days.

Those cost savings come, Ashshowwaf said, as building a landing page for a website and an app prototype can be done cheaply and quickly, especially on a fairly basic level.

“The websites you’re building, you’re building a landing page to show them the product, you’re not building a database and a store and all that,” he said. “That can be done pretty quickly if you know what you’re doing. For the app prototyping, if you know the right tools and have the right experience, even without using templates, you can build out things pretty quickly.”

In the future, Ashshowwaf said he hopes SITS will work with around 20 clients a month and expand nationwide as more and more people try and develop new apps. In time, SITS hopes to begin offering angel investments to early-stage companies and help them get off the ground.

“If we find clients where we really like their idea, we get to know them over a short period, that opens it up for us to put up an investment,” he said. “For us, rolling this out into very early stage angel investments would really be what we want, then scaling this up.”

Images via Stuck in the Sand.

by Chris Teale September 11, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A pair of Arlington County-based startups recently received injections of new cash as they continue to grow.

Crystal City software company ChurnZero and Rosslyn-based cybersecurity firm DivvyCloud both received several million dollars apiece from investors.

ChurnZero uses software to help subscription businesses understand how customers use their product, and fight against churn, when a customer decides to not use that product any longer. The company offers analytics, personalized and automated customer interfaces, and timely alerts about customers including those who are regular “power users” and those who are disengaged.

ChurnZero received $2.5 million from four investors: Grotech Ventures, Middeland Capital, Center for Innovative Technology and Charlottesville Angel Network.

“With business models moving to subscriptions, companies need to work every day to make sure their customers are engaged, happy, successful and, consequently, renewed,” You Mon Tsang, co-founder and CEO of ChurnZero, said in a statement. “We started ChurnZero because we saw way too many businesses that manage their customers without deep data or insight on the health and management level of their customers. That is simply not acceptable anymore.”

In an email, Tsang said the extra money will help ChurnZero continue to grow, having started with two founders in 2015 and already expanded to a staff of 15.

“We will invest in all parts of the business, including Product, Development, QA, Sales and Marketing,” Tsang said.  “We have big goals for the company. The investment will help ChurnZero grow into one of the major global players in the burgeoning customer success sector. We also aspire to be the next great D.C. [Software as a Service] company.”

DivvyCloud looks to make cloud servers safer by finding security problems and fixing them. It simplifies and automates cloud security for customers, who use programmed “Bots” to fix common cloud problems in real time.

It received $6 million in new funding, led by venture capital firm RTP Ventures.

“Cloud computing is a dynamic and fast-changing space and this new funding enables us to expand our reach in serving the needs of enterprises large and small struggling to manage their cloud infrastructures,” said Brian Johnson, CEO of DivvyCloud, in a statement. “With RTP Ventures’ deep experience in the SaaS space, their expertise will be invaluable as we take DivvyCloud to the next level.”

With the new investment, DivvyCloud will expand its sales and marketing operations and accelerate development of its software and services. Already, it serves the likes of General Electric, Discovery Communications and Fannie Mae, among others.

“For two years, DivvyCloud’s automation platform has been a foundational component of our enterprise cloud adoption strategy,” said Dave Duvall, Senior Vice President of Infrastructure at Discovery Communications, in a statement. “DivvyCloud helps to ensure our fast-growing cloud footprint remains secure and cost optimized while helping to integrate cloud into our existing IT operations. The speed at which DivvyCloud innovates and introduces new capabilities helps us stay ahead of problems.”

by Katherine Berko August 28, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Everyone has experienced waiting forever to pay their bill at a crowded restaurant. GoTab, a local startup, aims to eliminate that annoyance with its web app.

Restaurants can pay to set up GoTab to save both their servers and customers time. Customers can use their phones to view their tabs on a special webpage, with no login or app download required.

They then have the option to split their bills, add tips and pay with credit or debit cards. Payment information is secure and receipts are emailed to the customers.

Diners can also leave ratings or reviews of the restaurant if they wish.

“It saves the [customers] a bunch of time, it’s super convenient, their receipts are stored electronically…and it saves the restaurant or the bar time because [servers] don’t have to make multiple trips back and forth [to their tables],” said Paige Cantlin, president and co-founder of GoTab.

Cantlin started the company three years ago after working in finance for six years. However, she had considered creating a company like GoTab back in her college days when she waitressed tables to help pay her way through Johns Hopkins.

“That was where I learned about the restaurant industry and I wanted something like this as a person who worked in the industry,” Cantlin said. “I wanted something that would help save time and let my customers leave if they couldn’t find me when we were slammed.”

While Cantlin was getting her MBA, in 2014, she founded GoTab. A year and a half later, she met Tim McLaughlin, GoTab’s CEO and co-founder. Cantlin had known she needed somebody with technical experience to help with the app side of GoTab and McLaughlin seemed like a good fit.

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by Katherine Berko August 21, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

There is no doubt that the D.C. area is ripe with talented people. But is it innovative enough to be worthy of the title “Silicon Valley of the East,” over other tech-heavy cities like Boston and New York?

Jon Jackson, the founder of the successful local startup Mobile Posse, seems to think that’s an attainable goal for the nation’s capital.

“I want for it to be the Silicon Valley of the East,” Jackson said. “I’m not sure that it is the Silicon Valley of the East [but] I think that there are some hallmarks of the D.C. area that make it possible for us to get there.”

Jackson founded Mobile Posse in 2005. The company is a “leader in mobile content discovery solutions that help wireless carriers and device manufacturers capitalize on the mobile advertising economy.” The business has seen tremendous growth — about 70 percent per year — for the past three-and-a-half years, which is part of the reason Jackson believes D.C. is a prime location for startups.

Formerly in McLean, Mobile Posse moved to Arlington just over a year ago, where both Jackson and his cofounder live.

“There’s a great workforce here [and] the county is pretty progressive,” Jackson said.

One of the main reasons he chose to move his company was because many of the people he wanted to hire did not own cars and lived in Arlington, so they were reluctant to commute to McLean.

“We needed to get close to the Metro for recruiting purposes,” Jackson said.

During its 12 years in McLean and then in Arlington, Jackson noticed that D.C. and its surrounding areas had a great deal of potential for the tech industry. He cited D.C.’s educated workforce, its proximity to many universities, the presence of the federal government and all of the investments in the area as several reasons for that potential.

“We have more IT workers than any other city in the U.S.,” Jackson said. “Now, many of them work in the government so they’re not necessarily startup IT workers… but at least there’s the technical skills to [become a Silicon Valley here].”

Jackson mentioned that there were several factors holding the area back in the startup realm. He said that since the D.C. metropolitan area is split between two states and the District of Columbia, that makes it difficult to have one cohesive goal to bring talent and foster startups to the area.

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by Chris Teale August 14, 2017 at 3:45 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

A Courthouse-based nonprofit has launched a new investment fund to help coastal fishers in Asia be more sustainable, raising $10 million in its first round of funding.

Non-governmental organization Rare (1310 N. Courthouse Road), which focuses on global conservation, manages The Meloy Fund, an investment fund that looks to incentivize sustainable fisheries and increase the number of fish in the sea. It will do this by investing in companies that can help fishing communities or help provide alternative employment for fishers in Indonesia and the Philippines.

The fund, unique in both Arlington and the financial industry, a spokeswoman said, projects it will improve the lives of 100,000 fishers and their families. It will also help manage 1.2 million hectares of coastal habitats, including coral reefs, seagrass beds and mangroves.

“The innovation of the Meloy Fund is to recognize the latent opportunity for value creation in the undervalued coastal fisheries sector, and link the resulting investments with the necessary community engagement and fisheries management provided by Rare, which ensures long-term sustainability,” said Dale Galvin, managing director of Rare’s Sustainable Markets group, in a statement.

Investors in the fund include wealthy families, investment managers and foundations, like the Walton Family Foundation, which was started by Walmart founders Sam and Helen Walton to improve the environment, education and quality of life.

“I’m thrilled to invest in the Meloy Fund, and support its innovative model for deploying investment capital to the critical problems that coastal fisheries face in moving towards sustainability,” said Lukas Walton, a foundation heir, in a statement.

The Meloy Fund expects to receive more funding in the fall, including an anticipated $6 million from the environmental consultancy firm Global Environment Facility.

Photos via Facebook.

by Katherine Berko August 7, 2017 at 12:00 pm 0

Sponsored by Monday Properties and written by ARLnow.com, Startup Monday is a weekly column that profiles Arlington-based startups and their founders, plus other local technology happenings. The Ground Floor, Monday’s office space for young companies in Rosslyn, is now open. The Metro-accessible space features a 5,000-square-foot common area that includes a kitchen, lounge area, collaborative meeting spaces, and a stage for formal presentations.

Kristin McCurry noticed that the traditional fundraising agency model was going out of style and after spending years in the industry, she believed she knew just how to fix it.

“I really felt like there was an opportunity to have a next generation agency and that included working differently with the partners that we have,” McCurry said.

So 12 years ago, she founded MINDset Direct, a multi-channel marketing agency. MINDset works exclusively with nonprofit organizations, such as Whitman-Walker Health, the Children’s Inn at NIH as well as more national and international organizations.

The companies MINDset works with tend to lean towards progressive causes, are children’s organizations or are veterans’ organizations. MINDset focuses on fundraising for these nonprofits.

The way MINDset differs from other alike agencies is it fosters a partnership between itself and the clients it serves, as opposed to a “we make, you take” attitude.

“This was not just fundraising with blinders on,” McCurry said. “This moved much beyond that into understanding how fundraising plays into your branding, how it plays into your marketing, how it is complimented or challenged by your organizational structure, changes in mission etc. It’s a much more comprehensive approach.”

 

As a result, MINDset has many relationships with its clients that have endured over the years. It just celebrated a 12-year anniversary with one client.

“It’s really been very confirming that the time was right for a next generation model and that we have met and exceeded the expectations of our clients,” McCurry said.

When MINDset was first created, many startups were just beginning to take form. An Arlington resident, McCurry knew she wanted her company to be based in Arlington because of the incredible talent pool located here.

“We knew that we were going to need bright, energetic people to be on staff,” McCurry said.

For the first eight years, McCurry and her staff worked out of a garage-turned-studio at her house on Jefferson Street. Then three years ago, they moved to Clarendon.

McCurry explained how since the presidential election last year, charities across the nation have undergone immense transformations. Many organizations are experiencing a “Trump bump,” which is an increase in fundraising thanks to the election. However, the bump is not limited to just conservative or liberal organizations — it encompasses the entire spectrum.

McCurry believes many people are donating to nonprofits because of their frustration with the current political situation. She said donating to a worthy cause makes people feel better about themselves, and noted that in her 30 years working in the fundraising industry, she has never seen anything like what’s been happening at charities post-election.

“Philanthropy is a reflection of someone’s personal beliefs,” McCurry said. “We see that definitely for the causes that are aligning themselves with the Trump administration or coming up against the values of the Trump administration.”

Courtesy photos. Pictured in No. 1: the MINDset Direct team of Erica O’Brien, Kristin McCurry and Candice Briddell.

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